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Four Phil Steele Facts: Michigan State Spartans

Numbers never lie. What do they tell us about this old flame we’ve only seen once in the past five years?

Rutgers v Michigan State Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

Phil Steele puts out the best college football preview magazine every year. It’s not even a contest. In celebration of the 25th Anniversary of his first publication we at Bucky’s 5th Quarter are going to find four interesting facts about each team on Wisconsin’s schedule, including the Badgers, and break them down for you.

Phil, we love your magazine and we also love your mustache.

NUMBER 1: 21

Michigan State has not visited Madison since the 2012 season when they beat the Badgers, 16-13, in overtime which kicked off a stretch of four games where UW lost in overtime thrice. It also happened to be the same game that ended Wisconsin’s 21-game home unbeaten streak! I don’t even want to get into the bonkers Hail Mary game between these two because I will throw my laptop into the lake if I have to think about it. The pummeling that the Badgers delivered to a highly ranked, and apparently fraudulent, 2016 MSU team was a long time coming.


The Spartans suffered some awful injury luck last season (star halfback L.J. Scott missed most of the year, for instance), especially along the offensive line (had to use nine different starting lineups), and stumbled to a mediocre 7-6 record. This season, however, MSU has nine returning starters on offense, including all five o-linemen. They love to run the ball and having a stout, veteran offensive line will definitely help whoever wins the starting tailback job gain 1,000+ yards.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 27 Purdue at Michigan State Photo by Adam Ruff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

NUMBER 3: 342

This was MSU’s total offensive production per game last year. Wisconsin averaged 273 yards on the ground last year. It was the Spartans’ worse offensive output over the past seven years and combined with a scoring average of 18.7 points per game (also the worst over the past seven years) lead Sparty to be involved in some truly repugnant football games. The Spartans were co-stars in such must-miss games as a 16-13 slog in the desert with Arizona State, a 9-6 bore-a-palooza against Nebraska and a shocking, to all senses, 7-6 snoozefest with Oregon in the Redbox Bowl. Oh yeah, all of those were losses for MSU. Go figure.

NUMBER 4: 78

The reason that MSU didn’t lose every game they played last season was because their traditionally outstanding defense was even better than usual. They allowed a paltry 78 yards (2.6 yards per carry) per game which was not only best in the conference but best in the whole gosh darn nation. In conference play, they really slacked off and allowed 94 yards (2.9 YPC) per game which was...still the best number in the Big Ten. The defense returns all four linemen (Kenny Willekes, Raequan Williams and Mike and Jacub Panasiuk, brothers who use Polish during games!) and two of their three linebackers (Joe Bachie and Tyriq Thompson) so I’d imagine Jonathan Taylor, Tyler Biadasz and co. have their work cut out for them in this game.